Bald Head Island

CTNC and local conservation groups join efforts to protect one of NC’s most unique and threatened ecosystems.

From our coast to our mountains, Conservation Trust for North Carolina’s statewide impact is felt in the land we protect and the projects we launch. Our work in Princeville and collaborative land protection work along the Blue Ridge Parkway are widely known, but our work touches even the most threatened ecosystems along our coast.

Partnerships have been key to retaining Bald Head Island’s charm. In 2001, CTNC joined forces with the Bald Head Island Conservancy and Smith Island Land Trust to conserve threatened maritime forest and sensitive sea turtle nesting habitat on Bald Head Island in Brunswick County. CTNC holds 28 conservation easements on Bald Head Island, the southernmost barrier island in the state and a true ecological gem.

You truly stand on the edge of the Earth at Bald Head Island. Homeowners, vacationers, and adventurers must take a two-mile ferry or private boat ride across the Cape Fear River from Southport, NC, to reach this unique community.

The Smith Island Complex — including Bald Head Island, Middle Island, and Bluff Island — is of exceptional ecological significance. These islands contain one of the largest and best examples of the native Maritime Evergreen Forest and extensive dune, beach, and marsh communities supporting a rich diversity of rare plant and animal species. Forming the distinctive tip of Cape Fear, the island also provides excellent beach habitat for sea turtle nesting.

The three islands comprising Smith Island total 12,000 acres, but 10,000 of those acres are untouched beach, maritime forest, and mostly marsh. However, much of Bald Head Island and Middle Island are privately owned and available for development. Based on the current development plan, Bald Head Island, the southernmost of the three, is more than halfway built. However, there is still a significant amount of unbuilt property on the island. Any preserved property on Bald Head will help support the fragile ecosystems of the island.

The unsung heroes in this work are the generous landowners who are passionate about the island's ecology. Our Bald Head Island conservation project also hinges on the support and local knowledge of the Bald Head Island Conservancy and the volunteer-run Smith Island Land Trust. Given that the landowners so graciously donate valuable conservation land, we often rely on donations from our friends to support this work.

Thank you to our donors for helping us do what is necessary to protect North Carolina communities. Our successes are not always instantaneous. Through your unwavering support, we can preserve and protect the best parts of our state.